A Look Back at The Pennysaviour

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Every year our University of Windsor student paper The Lance did an April Fool's issue. It was traditionally a parody of a local publication. Most university papers in Canada did this. Usually a campus paper just parodied The Globe and Mail, calling it The Glob and Snail. Yeah. All their fake articles would be about CBC newscasters having big asses. Yeah.


Back in 1990, during a particularly bad Canadian University Press national convention (god I hated those... but loved them all the same), I realized a local Windsor weekly free classified ad paper would be ripe for parody. It was a tabloid full of ads for people selling car parts, old C64 computers, and themselves via personal ads. It also had a number of panel ads. Lots of people also published novenas, small prayers asking for favors from various saints. The publication was called The Pennysaver. I thought about a version that was for Christians only, featuring religious-themed ads. This version would be called The Pennysaviour. I proposed my idea to the paper's staff, they loved it, and made me the issue's editor. I spent about three months writing little classified ads on slips of paper and nearly failed a couple courses. Technically I failed two courses that semester (I normally failed two out of five every semester) but I nearly failed four (one was Metaphysics). Near the end of March, I installed a coffee maker in the paper's offices, installed my friend Terry Brown (not yet a student) as artist - in - residents / back-up humorist / guy who could line tape straight (I can't keep anything straight), and we went to town.




The paper's banner was made by basically shooting the Pennysaver's banner on a stat cam. An extra N and E were also shot. The N was simply flipped 180 to make the U in Pennysaviour. With an exacto knife and a black pen, the E was turned into an O.


Sensing that this parody issue would be controversial I limited ads to jokes with a Judeo-Christian bent. Terry and I were the products of 13 years of Catholic education and we felt we damn well had a right to parody our faith (or lack there of). Back about 1990 every other week it seemed some group of priests were being arrested for abusing altar boys. The Catholic Church eventually issued a left-handed apology. The Pope, it seems, assigned part of the blame to MTV. If it wasn't for that Madonna parading around in her panties, the Pope's holy men wouldn't be such outrageous boy rapers. Such was the logic.


When the paper was published, it hit the fan. Lots of people loved it. Others thought it was yet another attack by the media on the Christian faith. Why just a couple years ago, the media gave the leg over to Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, decent Christians those. The local paper The Windsor Star (who turned out to be the following year's target of parody) interviewed me. Leading the anti-Pennysaviour forces was the local chapter of the Campus Crusade for Christ. They got a table in the student centre and started a petition. After a week of campaigning, the Campus Crusade for Christ delivered the petition to student counsel. There were all of 12 names on it (for the first time ever see the actual, original petition here). Frankly, I'd have been embarrassed to show up in front of such an illustrious body and hand over that scrap.



Some people noticed that the number "4012" appeared time and time again in ad phone numbers and addresses. What was the significance they asked. I dunno, I'd respond. Ask a Hebrew scholar. The numbers 40 (rains 40 days/40 nights, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness) and 12 (12 apostles) appear a lot through out the Bible. Hence, I reasoned, they should appear through out The Pennysaviour. Rev P. Dufour was actually an ordained reverend and associate of ours, Peter Dufour. For a "love donation" he was ordained by some divinity mill and he ran a similar ad in the National Enquirer hoping people would send him loads of money. What he found was he got a lot of mail... from people trying to make money from him, selling him mailing lists.


I discovered then something about these kinds of tempests. For about a week, everyone comes out of the wood work and shouts "I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT TOO!" and then they realize they forgot to pay their credit card bill or their wife has left them or they failed English and they move on to other things. No one says a word by week two.


This one really horked them off



As it turned out, what really really offended the Campus Crusade for Christ was an ad Terry and I did for a parody of the It Store. The It Store is that store that sells rubber dog vomit, devices that fart, tshirts that say "I fucked your mother and she called out your name", and other gags. This version, the It Temple, offered a gag gift called the Crown of Thorns Beer Lugger. It was a hat shaped like a crown of thorns that let you sip from two cans of beer while, as the ad suggested, driving the church bus (there was, at this time, a rash of horrifying church bus accidents). I wrote the copy. Terry did the art work on the ad. Oddly enough, some letter to the editor accused us of being racists because he felt Terry's Sea Monkeys of Jehovah was some how making fun of black people.



A personal fav



My personal favorite -- one Terry, my ex gf Alanis, and I worked on -- was an ad for the "Monsters of Christian Rock World Stadium Crusade" (an idea that, word for word, appeared on an episode of The Simpsons a couple years later!). Terry and Alanis cooked up most of the band names. I wrote the copy around it and cobbled together the Jimmy Swaggart - in - Rocky - Horror - Picture - Show - drag graphic on the right-hand side.







All stuff copyright 1990-2001 TransMetaPhysical Heresies R Us
(a subdivision of The Karl Mamer and Terry Brown Foundation for Creative Penury)


Email me if you want to give me a high paying job: kamamer@yahoo.com